“This then was my immediate family: Mam, Charlie, someone called Dad and me. We lived in No. 43 Tagus Street, off Lodge Lane, Liverpool 8, one of a row of identical red-brown brick terraced ‘two-up, two-downs’” (24)
To Hayter, home and family is what makes up the majority of his memories surrounding Liverpool 8 and therefore what Toxteth Tales is constituted of. Because of this, I will be separating home and family into two different blog posts to permit me to explore each of these themes with the intent and detail they equally require. To begin my first blog post on these topics I will be looking at Hayter’s home and why it was such a significant theme within his memoir.
Hayter begins his memoir with the chapter ‘Tagus Street Family & Friends’ where he describes, in great detail, the houses that were found down Tagus Street and all the different families that lived in them. Each house on his street was identical, well known for their ‘sash bay bedroom window’ (24) that sat ‘above an identical parlour window, with the front door to one side.’ (24). Terraced houses were a cost-effective solution to fit the large numbers of people that were relocated into urban areas after the First World War into the constricted areas of a city (David Eveleigh, 3) and, as such, hundreds of families resided within these identical ‘two-up, two-downs’ (24). Although the houses demonstrated a ‘drab sameness’ (24), Hayter remarks that ‘there was no sameness about the families who lived in them’ (24).
Hayter’s memories of his home seem to be steeped in nostalgia as he recalls certain fragments of his house that are linked to a childhood memory more readily than parts that are not. He specifically remembers the ‘ornate cast iron letterbox complete with heavy knocker’ (27) which he describes as ‘an essential piece of apparatus, whether for summoning [him] from the inner depths of the house […] or just banging on and running away’ (27). It seems the pieces of the home he remembers more fondly are the parts that allude to a happy memory. Arguably this is also demonstrated through how he deposits small snippets of information about his home within a larger retelling of a memory he has with a person. It seems that setting and place will always come second to Ken’s memories of his family and friends.
Hayley Wilson argues that ‘growing up in post-war Merseyside’ would have shaped ‘many identities through community isolation’. She believes this is important as ‘childhood social experiences directly impact’ a person’s identity and how they perceive and construct their childhood experiences. (Wilson, 7) This seems certainly true for Hayter whose childhood nostalgia has led to him constructing a memoir based on his happy memories of his home life in Liverpool 8.
Hayter only has positive memories of his home and his beloved Tagus Street. To him the small terraced houses were unremarkable; he didn’t care about their structure or their less than posh outward appearance but, rather, Hayter remembers fondly the people who lived behind the identical doors and the memories he has with them. He lovingly remarks that ‘the streets off Lodge Lane were each a tiny community, where everybody knew everybody else’ (27). Hayter’s memories are filled to the brim with examples of the community lifeforce that drove Liverpool 8 forward during the war. He beautifully remembers the ‘intangible something’ that ‘caused the neighbours to be there if they were needed, to give a little something to those with less, without being asked, and without wanting a ‘thank you’. (27).
It was this strong sense of community that tells us why the home was so important for Hayter as a child. His home was not just the four walls of his ‘drab’ terraced house. His home was the street in which he grew up and the community to which he will always belong. It is this common theme of togetherness within the Liverpool people, which Hayter demonstrates throughout the memoir, that I believe makes it so wonderful to read. Home to Hayter is not just his plain old house but the houses of everyone else within his community along with the street and his city which he remembers so fondly.
David, Eveleigh. ‘Victorian & Edwardian Services (Houses) 1850-1914’ University of West England, Bristol. Web. Accessed 20/03/20
Hayter, Kenneth. Toxteth Tales. Lancaster: Palatine Books. 2017
Wilson, Hayley Elizabeth. ‘Childhood Memories of Post-war Merseyside: Exploring the Impact of Memory Sharing Through an Oral History and Reminiscence Work Approach’. Ljmu.ac.uk. Web. Accessed 20/03/20
Images from liverpoolpicturebook.com and the Toxteth Tales Memoir.